A Thai court on Wednesday handed a suspended jail sentence to the scandal-mired head of the nation’s Football Association for falsifying registration documents which complainants said strenghtened his control over the sport.
Worawi Makudi, the general-secretary of Thai football and a long-time executive committee member of thesport‘s disgraced world body FIFA, was found guilty of fraudulently changing a document in 2013 after a complaint by a Thai football club.
He was initially sentenced to two years in jail and fined 6,000 baht ($175), alongside chairman of the Thai Premier League Ong-art Kohsinkha, but a judge trimmed and suspended the term for two years.
“They have never committed a crime before so the judge cut the sentence to one year and six months,” an official at a Bangkok Southern Criminal Court told AFP, requesting anonymity.
“The sentence was later suspended for two years,” he said.
The case pivoted on a registration document from the Football Association to the Interior Ministry, which was filed ahead of elections for general-secretary that Worawi went on to win.
The pair were accused of culling the number of members of the association from 184 to 72, diluting the voting power of the clubs opposed to Worawi, including the complainant Pattaya FC.
Club chairman Natapon Panyakhanukul told AFP he filed the complaint to protect the members eliminated from the association.
“I did it for sake of all clubs and to protect our rights,” he said.
Worawi has won re-election to his post as the head of Thai football three times, despite a slew of scandals and widespread criticism from leading Thai football clubs and fans.
In September a letter signed by 50,000 fans from across the country demanding Worawi’s removal was handed to the office of Thai junta chief Prayut Chan-O-Cha.
But Worawi remained in his post.
In April 2014 he was voted out from FIFA’s executive committee after 18 years, a stint during which he acted as an ally in Southeast Asia federations to President Sepp Blatter.
FIFA has been battered by a corruption scandal that blew up in June, forcing the Swiss official to pledge to step down.
Since taking the Thai job Worawi has been forced to bat away repeated scandals, including allegations of accepting bribes and misusing funds.
But until Wednesday’s case none of the allegations against him have ever been proved in court.
His lawyer Narinpong Jinapuck said the pair were innocent of wrong-doing over the document registration issue and will appeal the ruling.
“My clients have not done anything wrong,” he said, adding they adhered to the Interior Ministry’s guidelines. –Agence France-Presse